YA Storytellers Thanksgiving Giveaway
@story Marla Cantrell @images courtesy Quinn Loftis
In 2010, Quinn Loftis was living in a fantasy world. By day, she worked as a nurse in a doctors’ office in Little Rock. Her two bosses, both surgeons, were often at the hospital or taking time off for vacation, and that left Quinn with too much time on her hands. She’d recently read Twilight, the wildly popular book about teen vampires.
That book led her to other supernatural stories. She started reading a lot – often a book a day – and she grew more and more dissatisfied with them. “I got to a place where I couldn’t find a book that had the relationships I wanted,” Quinn says. “So I thought maybe I could write a book.”
And so she did. It took her only seven days, writing eight hours a day, to complete her first book. She typed at her desk at work, she went to bed thinking about the characters she’d created, she woke with the next chapter just itching to be told.
When she finished, she’d written 240 pages. Prince of Wolves is set in Coldspring, Texas, a town of 700. The story revolves around three seventeen-year-old girls named Jacque, Jen, and Sally, who are killing time over the summer before their senior year in high school, hanging out at each other’s houses, sunbathing, and drinking a lot of hot chocolate.
The action starts when a limo pulls up across the street from Jacque’s house and drops off an exchange student from Romania, who just happens to be a werewolf, and the prince of his pack.
If Quinn had taken writing classes, if she’d spent much time at all researching just how hard it is to write a book and get it published, she might have been discouraged. But she had not. And so she dove in, creating a world of mystery, where anything is possible. The hardest part, she says, was coming up with the right names for her characters. Once that happened, she could see and hear them and the story spilled out as fast as she could type it.
The three main characters are loosely based on Quinn’s high school friends. But not so loosely that they didn’t recognize themselves. “One of my friends called after Prince of Wolves was out and said, ‘I’m Jen, aren’t I?’ I really liked the Jen character because she says what she thinks, all the time. Girls are so candid behind closed doors. I tried to bring that through.”
Quinn held onto her book for a while. “A year after I wrote it, I got on Barnes and Noble’s self-publishing site and then Amazon’s site for Kindle. I uploaded it and then I told everyone I knew. The first month, which was June, 2011, I sold ten copies. The next month I sold ninety.” But in August she sold 1,261.
The reason for the bump in sales was due in part to the generosity of one of Quinn’s fans, who loved the story. She did not, however, love the cover. “It was a really bad cover,” Quinn says. “One of my readers contacted me and said ‘I read your book and I’m in love with it, and my husband’s a graphic designer and we made you a cover.’ The change caused my sales to skyrocket.”
So there Quinn was, a new author with a growing fan base, and a desire to keep telling stories. “When I first sat down to write, I had no idea there would be seven books in this series.”
Less than three months later, she’d finished her next novel. When Blood Rights, the second in her Grey Wolf Series, was released in November of 2011, sales were much stronger. She sold 1,950 the first month, and 3,730 in the second.
By then, Quinn was starting to realize she might have to give up her career as a nurse and write full time. She and her family had recently moved to Fort Smith so that her husband, who’s an attorney, could take a position with a firm in town. Then, in January, 2012, just a month before her third book came out, she quit her job at a local hospital.
As she talks about her success – total downloads of her books recently topped 1 million – she seems to be as in awe as those who hear her story. At thirty-three, with no formal training, it is astounding. But she did study diligently to learn everything she could about writing after her first book was finished, and she’s a gifted storyteller. Which is why she made the USA Today bestseller list recently.
There is another reason Quinn’s been so successful. She’s done her homework, studying the self-publishing business, finding out how to get her books reviewed on blogs her readers follow. And then there’s her husband, who is now working full time helping Quinn with legal matters involved with publishing, and helping her with the business end of writing. “He sets a quota for me and a deadline, and I really need that,” Quinn says, and then laughs. “Without him, who knows what would happen.”
Much of what she’s learned in her marriage she carries over into her romantic lives of her characters. They have to complement each other. They have to be each other’s best friend. And they have to help each other. “I cannot stand a heroine who is so strong that she has no need for the hero. To me, that’s a pointless relationship. But you don’t want somebody who can’t do anything for herself. You have to find an extremely fine balance between a heroine who is strong but realizes she can’t do everything alone.”
Quinn’s readers range in age from ten to seventy-three, and she knows her characters are role models for her younger readers. There is never anything graphic in her books, and the male werewolves are worth the trouble since they never, ever cheat.
What she didn’t realize was just how much her books might mean to some of her fans. “I had a mom email me who had a two-year-old daughter who has cancer, who was in the hospital being treated. She said at night she gets out her Kindle and reads my books. She said, ‘It was so nice to laugh and to get away from what’s going on.’ She was twenty, so young, with a two-year-old.” Quinn shakes her head at the thought of it. “To think that my book could help her during something so difficult, and to think that she took the time to email me.”
This year alone, Quinn’s won four awards, including author of the year, at UtopYA, a convention for women writers in the supernatural genre. “I was up against some big name authors and I nearly fell in the floor. My husband had to help me up, and I just balled and balled. Such an honor,” Quinn says.
So much has happened in such a short amount of time. But Quinn’s just getting started. Already she’s decided to write a new series about aliens, which will also have a good amount of romance in them. She’s writing a spinoff of the Grey Wolf series, and she’s working on another series. And she has a mainstream novel. It’s a lot to take in, though she doesn’t seem to worry. She has never once found herself lacking for a story idea, or burdened by the thought of another deadline. It is a joy for her, this gift she has for the written word, and the imagination it takes to create magical lands where good and evil clash, where werewolves race through the woods at night, and where three girls from a small town in Texas discover their lives are every bit as extraordinary as any other living creature on this great earth.
Meet Quinn Loftis
October 17, 2013 Fort Smith Public Library, Teen Reader Group. 479.783.0229
October 26, 2013 Indie Mash Up, Springdale, Arkansas. indieauthorevent.com
For more on Quinn’s books, visit quinnloftisbooks.com.